Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Heels

Contrary to what everyone says about me, I'm not perfect.

Okay, actually no one says that about me. But feel free to start the rumor.

Striving for perfection, or at least trying to be the best you can be, is an admirable goal. Unfortunately, it isn't easy. Not due to lack of effort, but lack of subjectivity.

As a wise man once said, "A man's got to know his limitations." That wise man was Dirty Harry. And he's right.

Recognizing our own flaws, and then acknowledging that they need to be fixed, is hard to do.

One of my Achilles' heels is email. I just can't keep up. I answer the quick ones, but the ones that require more in-depth replies or scheduling issues get put off until I have an InBox of ninety-four urgent messages that all need to be answered yesterday.

Perhaps it's a discipline thing. Or perhaps it's a time issue thing. The fact that I don't like answering most email is also a factor. Whatever the case, I suck at email response.

My de facto coping mechanism for this flaw is to wait until the email piles up so badly I have no choice, then I'll waste two days answering it all. This adds unnecessary stress, hurts my career, and is just plain bad business.

But I'm halfway to fixing it. Because I've identified the problem, and the poor way I handle it, I can now try to brainstorm a solution. Here are some options:

1. Hire an assistant. While this would be helpful, I don't have the funds for it. And much as I would like having someone constantly remind me what I need to get done (another big Achilles' heel of mine is forgetfulness) I'm simply not at the stage in my career where it is necessary. I can still handle everything myself, I just don't.

2. Become less accessible. I see the allure in this. A lot of my email is fan-related, or new writers seeking advice. I open myself up to this because it's a way to help spread name-recognition, word-of-mouth, and brand awareness. I'm not a bestseller being bombarded with hundreds of emails a day, and seclusion could hurt more than help. So for the time being I'll keep public email address, and still allow people to contact me directly.

3. Schedule time. This makes the most sense, because it is within my power and budget. If I've established that answering email is important, then I have to devise a plan to get it done.But deadlines and travelling make consistency impossible, and uninforeceable.

4. Garbage in, garbage out. This is probably the best idea, and something I can certainly keep up with. As soon as I get an email, I should answer it immediately. Then I'll never get behind. But there's also a good chance I'll never check my Inbox again.

5. Schedule GIGO, adjusting accordingly. Now we're cooking. If I vow to answer email when it comes in, and chose to answer email at a semi-regular time (such as whenever I boot up the computer, when I wake up, or right after I finish writing my quota for the day) that addresses all of my concerns.

So I'll go with #5. But even though I have a semi-solution, there's still a chance of lapsing. Assuming I have very little self-control (a good assumption) what can I do to make sure I stick to this protocol?

Please hit me with your answer, and then take the opportunity to reveal one of your Achilles' heels, along with potential solutions.

A wise man (not Dirty Harry) once said, "There are no problems, only opportunities." Ask yourself what needs to improve about your career, then challenge yourself to do something about it.